MENOMINEE - When the last pitches were thrown in last week's Michigan American Legion Class AA and Class A state tournaments, it marked the end of Don Hudon's 37-year link to Legion baseball.

Hudon decided in January to retire from his duties as the Michigan American Legion State Baseball Chairman.

The Menominee resident has been the state chairman for the past eight years and also served as the 11th district chairman and 5th Zone chairman.

"It was time to step aside and let someone else take care of it," Hudon explained. "I want to travel. I was never able to do that during the baseball season."

Hudon feels he helped right the Legion baseball ship when he took over as chairman.

"I'm proud I got the program back on track. The (former chairman) ran the program without consulting the committee. I got the committee involved. The committee now has the final say."

The Michigan Legion baseball committee is made up of representatives from each of the five zones in the state.

There are currently 42 American Legion teams in Michigan, including 15 U.P. teams.

The Fox River Valley League with 36 teams, almost equals the entire Michigan total of Legion teams.

While come critics point to Wisconsin and note that state has many more Legion teams than Michigan despite having a much smaller population, Hudon points out that Michigan faces much more competition for players.

"We have trouble because of all the travel teams, like Cal Ripken and Mickey Mantle baseball, in Michigan," he explained. "They're like showcase leagues. Wisconsin doesn't have that. They just have high school and Legion baseball."

Illustrating his point, Hudon that large metro areas like Grand Rapids, Flint and Kalamazoo don't have any Legion baseball teams.

Some Menominee Legion baseball officials would like to see the Post 146 team be allowed to play in the Wisconsin state tournament. The Red Wave compete in the Fox River Valley League during the regular season.

There are practical reasons why Menominee or any other team bordering Wisconsin will not be allowed to play in the Wisconsin state tournament, according to Hudon.

"If Menominee is allowed to play in the Wisconsin tournament, then Iron Mountain and Ironwood would have to be allowed. We would have to allow (Michigan) teams on the Ohio border play in the Ohio tournament. It's not going to happen."

After next season, 19-year-olds will no longer be eligible to play American Legion baseball, as directed by the national American Legion baseball committee.

Hudon likes the change back to the old system, noting it will open up more playing for younger players.

"They don't believe college ballplayers should be playing with Legion ballplayers," Hudon noted. "They feel college ballplayers are getting the jump on the younger kids. The 16- and 17-year-olds couldn't compete with the 19-year-olds."

Hudon added that the rule change could affect state powerhouses like Midland Berryhill, which draw heavily from area colleges.

"It could hurt programs like Midland and Adrian. The U.P. teams might be able to play against them again."

Hudon called the recent U.P. Zone Tournament at Spies Field a big success.

"It worked beautifully because Menominee is the only facility in the U.P. that has two lighted fields."

Nelson Conkrite, whose brothers Steve and Danny coach the Midland Berryhill team, takes over as the state chairman.